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Transport & Logistics

Rail Safety – “It’s everyone’s responsibility” | Interview with David Bainbridge

8 Jan 2015, by Informa Insights

David Bainbridge is National Rail Safety & Assurance Manager at Leighton Contractors.

David will be part of the Safety Managers & Regulators Panel on Day 3 of Rail Safety 2015. This is the 15th incarnation of the program and this year’s conference theme – “It’s everyone’s responsibility” – revolves around the importance of collaboration in promoting safety on Australian railways.

We were able to sit down with David in the lead-up to the event. Watch the interview or read the transcript below.


Interview with David Bainbridge, President of the Rail Track Association of Australia.

You will be part of the Safety Managers panel at Rail Safety 2015. This will be the 15th incarnation of the annual program. Why is this event so essential to the rail industry?
I think it is very important for two reasons: –

The first is ensuring the safety of the general public and the travelling public, who have a habit of doing wonderfully silly things on railways, particularly where alcohol and drugs are involved. They can create such an impact on the railway workers themselves.

The second aspect is the rail workers in their environment, particularly those people out on the track, who come off second best when they are involved with trains or high speed vehicles. Anything to do with the rail infrastructure on which they work. So anything we can do as an industry to improve the safety of our workers is important.

What did you feel were the key outcomes from the 2014 event? Have you seen technology playing a greater role in safety across the year?
I think definitely the Tracksafe Foundation work has been exemplary in getting a bigger awareness of crossing safety in particular. Also one of my personal passions is the introduction of automatic track warning devices to eliminate those human factor elements of people looking out for trains, which they have done ever since Queen Victoria was around. It’s time to move on and introduce technology which eliminates people being distracted and allows people to work in a safer environment.

The theme for 2015 will focus on the importance of everyone taking responsibility for safety. Are there areas of the industry that feel safety is up to someone else?
I think it is a journey that we are going on across many industries – not just rail but construction and manufacturing etc. Safety has previously been seen as the safety guy’s job. I think the message is starting to get through that rail safety is in everyone’s interest – the rail regulator, the occupational health and safety person, the safety regulator are all driving this message that it is social unacceptable to kill or injure people at work…and we all have to play our part in that journey of ensuring everyone goes home safely every day.

The Heavy Vehicle industry has a set of laws known as Chain of Responsibility designed to ensure everyone in the supply chain shares equal responsibility for safeguarding against breaches of road transport laws. Could the rail industry learn from their experiences?
Yes, I think there are some learnings there but heavy vehicle laws are quite complex and there’s a challenge there in my day job to understand how far and wide we should actually go in terms of rail laws. There’s a period of time required in how those laws breakdown in the heavy vehicle industry…but at the moment it is more of a wait and see how it happens. Certainly the rail industry is nowhere near as high risk as using trucks on roads. So there will be some learnings but I very much doubt there will be the same impact as there is on roads.

What do you foresee as being the key issues for debate at the event next year and what are your hopes for the rail safety industry in 2015?
I think we are going through a bit of a lull currently in terms of actual physical work on the ground, which means we will lose talent to other industries and overseas. That’s going to be a bit of a concern because it means that next year the NSW market is going to explode again with the North West rail link and Sydney Light Rail…and that’s going to create problems with getting people back into the rail industry and into the way we work – at a much higher level of safety then as at general construction. So I think that will be the biggest issue for us – making sure that we retain as much of the talent as we already have and we keep that talent fully aware and keeping them doing what they should do.

View the agenda and book now for Rail Safety 2015, 24-26 March at The Langham, Melbourne.

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